The Global Classroom: My Story of Teaching Innovative Online Math Classes

Aug 1, 2018

A few days ago, I was helping an energetic group of young learners on Outschool as we learned how to draw a perfect circle, using found objects from home.

We were exploring how to make precise Apollonian Gaskets, which are fractals that form when smaller and smaller circles are contained within a larger circle. We were also discussing all the cool places this fractal shows up in real life (like the inside of an atom), when one of my students posited, “Teacher, you have the best job! You get to draw all day and talk about math!”

I thought, “No kidding!”

As one of my regular Outschool students, this enthusiastic young student had already taken many of my classes and learned:

  • The connections between the ways we count numbers and how the swirls of a galaxy form.
  • The relationships between the powers of 2 and the patterns formed when bricks are stacked.
  • The surprising fact that a triangle can be the exact same thing as a circle, depending on the surface on which it is drawn.

I noted that this student was becoming an authority on my style of teaching and that she was absolutely right, I do have an awesome job! I am convinced that I have as much fun exploring math concepts during my online classes as my Outschool students do while taking the classes.

I have been an independent teacher offering classes through Outschool for just over six months. In that time, these classes have helped me grow as an educator and think differently about the way I teach. I wanted to share my journey with you.

What I Teach at Outschool

For the past 30 years, I was teaching math at a high school- and college-level in the “real world.” When I discovered Outschool, I was excited to try the untethered world of online teaching and to experience a virtual classroom composed of kids from around the globe.

I soon realized that, through Outschool I have the freedom to create my own classes using engaging hands-on applications, such as teaching math through art, magic, and mysteries. Rather than just teaching the times tables, I help students uncover magical patterns within our number system that can help them make deeper connections with numbers and see the beauty of mathematics.

For years I’d worried that too many of my calculus students did not have strong foundations in spatial reasoning. This meant that they might struggle to mentally manipulate figures or sketch graphs in two and three dimensions. However, through Outschool, I am able to help students cultivate these essential spatial reasoning skills that I know are necessary for higher math and science since a strict curriculum does not bind me, as it would have in a traditional classroom.

How I Structure Classes on Outschool

Using Outschool, I have control over the size of my classes, and I tend to keep mine small so that my students have many opportunities to continuously interact with me. I choose math projects that maximize student engagement.

By using art as a delivery mechanism for teaching math concepts, I keep students engrossed throughout each class. We don’t just talk about slope, estimation, geometry or sequences; we explore these concepts by following in the footsteps of math-inspired artists.

I also appeal to the natural curiosity of all students by encouraging them to solve mysteries. In my Inspector Math class, rather than simply teaching the relationship between time, speed and distance, my students use forensic formulas to determine whether there is evidence at an accident scene to prove a driver was excessively speeding.

We use math to reconstruct crime scenes and test witness statements.

Parent reviews confirm that even the “math anxious” students have fun learning in this way, an exciting result for me, as a teacher.

An Exceptional Platform for Small, Live, and Interactive Classes

I genuinely enjoy every class that I teach through Outschool. Below are just a few reasons:

  • Insight into whether kids are shy, prefer no video, or are eager and want to show me their extra math-art projects.
  • Virtual whiteboards that allow the whole math class to work on a problem together.
  • The ability for students and myself to annotate over slides so that I may quickly and easily address any questions that arise.
  • A “Gallery View” showing all students simultaneously onscreen which better facilitates playing math games.

In addition, through Outschool, I have been introduced to many philosophies of learning in both the homeschooling community and otherwise. It is amazing to be connecting to families and to be a part of their homeschool journeys.

Why You Should Enroll Your Student

Fostering a deep understanding and love of math in all my students, regardless of background, is my aspiration. My classes include students from Canada, Australia, Thailand, the UK, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Japan, the USA, and perhaps someday this global classroom will stretch to encompass the entire blue sphere we all share. If you are a parent, sign your child up, and together we will explore the unique ways that math impacts and inspires our lives.

Join us: offer classes through Outschool

If you are a teacher with the vision to create courses that reach beyond the limitations of traditional curriculum and wish to make larger and more immediate connections in your learners, choose Outschool. Teachers have the flexibility to create their own classes, implement novel approaches to learning, facilitate small live classrooms, and access thousands of bright and engaged students from across the country, and around the world.

Kristin Garn

Kristin is a certified teacher who has been offering classes on Outschool since Sept 2017. She helps students ignite a love of learning by exploring things like math and art, math mysteries and more!